Letter of the Week – After the Gold Rush

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

I just played your hot stamper pressing of Neil Young After the Gold Rush, and WOW! I don’t always agree with everyone else on which record pressings sound best, but this record knocked my socks off. 

No doubt about this one. I compared it to a recent German/Dutch reissue, which I remember sounding better than the crappy US pressing I previously had, and the difference was amazing. The soundstage was huge, I heard instruments playing right in front of me, dynamics were great, the bass drum on Only Love Can Break Your Heart was deep and extended, guitars were full, and so on.

I hadn’t played this record in a while mainly because it was, well, a lousy recording, which is a shame because it is one of my favorite records. I am sure I will be playing this version a lot more. Too bad for those who haven’t heard this pressing. (more…)

Bob Dylan – Knocked Out Loaded

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Knocked Out Loaded

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this superb pressing of Dylan’s 1986 release – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides here are super rich and full with excellent bass and tons of energy
  • “… the 11-minute epic “Brownsville Girl”, co-written by Sam Shepard, has been cited as one of his best songs by some critics.”
  • “… [Dylan’s] scattershot approach has its charms, especially when it results in winding epics like the Shepard collaboration ‘Brownsville Girl.'”

This is one of the better sounding Dylan records from the ’80s. It’s not exactly Blood on the Tracks, the only Dylan album we think is qualified to be on our Top 100 Rock and Pop List, but it sounds good for a record from this era. (more…)

Dave Brubeck Quartet – 25th Anniversary Reunion – Reviewed in 2005

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This album has SURPRISINGLY GOOD SOUND and even more SURPRISINGLY GOOD MUSIC! Who would have thought that these old goats still could still play jazz at this level? Especially Joe Morello on the drums — this guy drums up a storm, especially during his solos on the first track. He’s always been one of the strongest members of the foursome. But everybody here is good, and they do both their famous songs and some that they’re less well known for.   (more…)

Tom Petty – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

Big and punchy with great energy, this copy really rocks. And rockin’ is what this album is all about — this is fun, high-energy music, but it takes a Hot Stamper copy like this to bring it life.

This is the classic first album, with two of their best songs: Breakdown and American Girl. It’s straight ahead rock and roll, with sonics to match.

This is not purely an audiophile album. The sound is a little spitty and transistory as a rule. But when you find a copy with Hot Stampers, the elements start to work together, and the good far outweighs the bad. If somebody tried to EQ this album differently, they’d probably end up taking away some of the Raw Rock Energy. (more…)

Helen Humes – Songs I Like to Sing – Our Black Label Shootout Winner

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More Songs I Like to Sing

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame

This Contemporary Black Label Original LP has AMAZING SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! It has that classic tube-mastered sound — warmer, smoother, and sweeter than the later pressings with more breath of life.   

Overall the sound is well-balanced and tonally correct from top to bottom, which is rare for a black label Contemporary, as they are usually dull and bass-heavy.

I won’t buy them locally anymore unless they can be returned. I’ve got a box full of Contemporarys with bloated bass and no top end that I don’t know what to do with! Like most mediocre-to-bad sounding records around here, they just sit in a box taking up space. All our time and effort goes into putting good pressings on the site and in the emailings. It’s hard to get motivated to do anything with the leftovers. We paid plenty for them, so we don’t want to give them away. But they don’t sound good, so our customers won’t buy them. What to do, what to do? Ebay I guess, but that’s a long way down the road. It’s too more fun doing listings for good records these days to want to stop now. The average record is just average, and nothing is ever going to change that. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Belafonte at Carnegie Hall and Stardust

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

My July 4 weekend was great. I had lots of company this weekend for three days straight. I slayed a bunch of them with my new collection of Hot Stamper LPs from Better Records. Honestly, these LPs make my system sound like I just dropped another $100,000 into it suddenly. I played Harry Belafonte (Carnegie Hall Live Concert) and Willie Nelson (Stardust) for some guests that grew up in another part of the world who had never ever even heard of these people. They had no clue about what they were going to hear. I watched them and they were mesmerized – leaning forward in their seats practically holding their breath – holding themselves still like a deer caught in the headlights. Not a sound spoken – even the females! The sense of being live was so palpable that most were simply speechless. Confusion was rampant since all that sound was coming from OLD BLACK VINYL.

My smile was a mile wide. Thanks for that satisfying experience.

John R. (more…)

Brahms / Trio & Beethoven / Sonata for Horn and Piano – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

More of the music of Johannes Brahms 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This is an exceptionally good sounding chamber record on the RCA White Dog label, especially on side two, which earned a sonic grade of A++ to A+++. Side two has the Beethoven work for horn and piano, and it sounds about as real and natural as a chamber recording can. Side one is not quite up to the same sonic standards, but is quite good nevertheless, earning a very respectable grade of A+ to A++.

This title is so rare I had literally never seen one in my 25+ years as a dealer in audiophile-oriented recordings. The other bit of good news is that the vinyl is unusually quiet, playing as it does mostly Mint Minus. How many early RCA pressings can make such a claim? No more than five per cent I would think, if that. (more…)

Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks

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Blood on the Tracks

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  • With Double Plus (A++) sonic grades on both sides, this is an outstanding Blood on the Tracks from start to finish
  • For musical, un-hyped acoustic guitars and vocals, the sound of this album is tough to beat in Dylan’s catalog 
  • The better copies are rich, warm, tubey and full-bodied – in other words, they are exactly what’s good about vintage analog
  • 5 stars: “…it’s an affecting, unbearably poignant record, not because it’s a glimpse into his soul, but because the songs are remarkably clear-eyed and sentimental, lovely and melancholy at once. Dylan made albums more influential than this, but he never made one better.”

This is an outstanding recording — a member of our Top 100 in fact — but it takes a special pressing to bring it to life. It’s nice when the copy in hand has all the transparency, space, layered depth and three-dimensionality that makes listening to records such a fundamentally different experience than listening to digitally-sourced material, but it’s not nearly as important as having a rich, relaxed quality. A touch of smear and a slight lack of resolution is not the end of the world on this album. Brightness, along with too much grain and grit, can be. (more…)

Stevie Wonder – Innervisions

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Innervisions

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  • With two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, this is an all around killer pressing – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • One of the funkiest audiophile-quality discs money can buy, but you need a copy that sounds as good as this one to make that case
  • The key qualities are richness, warmth, Tubey Magic, and clarity, and here you will find a healthy dose of all four
  • “Stevie Wonder applied his tremendous songwriting talents to the unsettled social morass that was the early ’70s and produced one of his greatest, most important works, a rich panoply of songs addressing drugs, spirituality, political ethics, and what looked to be the failure of the ’60s dream — all set within a collection of charts as funky and catchy as any he’d written before.”

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Stevie Wonder singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that. (more…)

Stevie Wonder – Talking Book – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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Talking Book

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

An A+++ White Hot side two backed with an A++ side one! We just finished our another big shootout for this album, and those of you who are familiar with this record will not be surprised that it was TOUGH. This side two is an entirely different story than most pressings — the sound is big, lively and three-dimensional! 

You could play dozens of copies of this album and never hear a side two this good. Heck, we’ve played hundreds of copies over the years with almost nothing to show for it!

Side One

A++, with a big, rich bottom end and clear, present vocals. So good!

Side Two

A+++, As Good As It Gets! Big and solid, open and spacious, this side is doing everything we could ask it to. Pay particular attention to the kick drum — it sounds just right here! The vocals are breathy and present, and the soundstage is amazingly big and three-dimensional.

Even the hottest copies never reached the sonic heights of InnerVisions or Songs In The Key Of Life, but at least they presented the music in a way that audiophiles like us can enjoy. (more…)